Great Scotland Yard Hotel
GSY is a 5-star hotel in London and part of the Hyatt Unbound Collection. Inspired by the historic significance of the address and the opportunity to do something different, the Dubai-based 21 Holdings commissioned Hollandridge Group to curate a significant new collection of paintings, sculpture and installations recalling the location’s past. The new owners wanted to define the Great Scotland Yard Hotel by its art, using the artworks to reveal the building’s distinctive, rich history, but not in a way that was predictable or themed.More »
The final result brings together over 600 new works commissioned from 28 leading artists including the artist and social historian, Nicola Green, and British Contemporary artists Cornelia Parker, Alastair Mackie, Ann Carrington, Marcus Hodge and Piers Bourke, pictures, ceramics and sculpture by serving prisoners working with Koestler Arts and even antique curiosities and memorabilia linked to the history of crime, detective work and the police.
Great Scotland Yard is a place where dramatic things have happened and this was an opportunity to bring some of the more interesting and intriguing episodes back to the surface.« Less
Lobby - 'Service' by Nicola Green
In this work Nicola Green explores themes of leadership, race, gender, and religion. “Great Scotland Yard has a compelling history. The name alone has become synonymous with policing, and probably the most famous law enforcement agency in the world,” says Green. “This led me to so many stories – most of which are already in people’s consciousness – but I also wanted to tell the tales of the unsung heroes, the trailblazers who have fought for a fairer and more equal society.”More »
Green spent hundreds of hours researching the genesis of policing and prisons and the history of the criminal justice system in the UK. She distilled this research into a series of 30 portraits entitled 'Service': “We serve time, we serve in office and our country in a multitude of ways,” she says, and each sitter has ‘served’ in one way or another.
The artist nominated characters from notorious gangsters and infamous criminals, prominent judges, lawyers and politicians, police personnel, literary figures and monarchs from inception of the modern judicial system in the 12th century to the present day.
Those featured include Mary Queen of Scots, who represents the site’s origins as accommodation for diplomatic representatives of the Kingdom of Scotland and Scottish royalty. Sir Robert Peel, ‘the father of modern policing’ looks towards Cressida Dick, the first female commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Winston Churchill and Lord Kitchener make an appearance, referencing the building’s past as headquarters of the Ministry of Defence.« Less
The Forty Elephants
The Forty Elephants bar gets its name from a rapacious female gang from Elephant and Castle. A striking portrait of The Bob Haired Bandit – another creation of Green’s – hangs over the fireplace. At first thought to be of the gang’s leader, Alice Diamond, investigation revealed that it is actually her accomplice Lillian Rose Goldstein.More »
‘The Evidence Table’ in the centre of the bar tells the story of the Forty Elephants and is filled with vintage ephemera sourced by us to show the kind of objects that the gang likely shoplifted from Mayfair boutiques. And in the corner by the bar proudly stands Patricia Mitchell's more literal interpretation of the theme with 40 gold elephants referencing the artist's keen passion for the welfare of African animals.« Less
Contemporary abstract art also lends focus and colour to the Lobby, including a work by Marcus Hodge, which forms part of a series called Gateways signalling his transition from a figurative painter to abstraction following pivotal trip to India.
Koestler Arts Installation
We learned of the Trust’s work through an exhibition of prisoners’ art curated by Sir Antony Gormley. The installation includes a sad-looking, large-eared English Bull terrier, a giant matchstick made from matchsticks and a clock with bat wings entitled ‘Time Flies’. The incongruity of these artists’ creations ending up in Britain’s most famous former police station won’t be lost on anyone.
‘Knowing that their work can be displayed in public is a boost for our artists,’ says Fiona Curran, director of arts at The Koestler Arts. ‘Art changes prisoners’ lives and it can make a real difference.’
Funds were donated to Koestler Arts to support their art outreach programmes in prisons across the UK.
Another notable name among the artists selected for the Great Scotland Yard project is Ann Carrington, a favourite of designer Paul Smith whose glorious Jubilee banner graced the Royal Barge for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
She brings alternative royalty to the hotel in the shape of large portraits of Queen Victoria and the present Queen, inspired by postage stamps but composed of the pearl buttons used by Pearly Kings and Queens. These will grace The Inquiry, the hotel’s reception.
The Parlour is presented as a Colonial tearoom where the origins of tea are celebrated in Breath the 2019 triptych created by Olivia Fraser. The hotel’s owners had connections with the Great East Indian Company and were keen for Percy-Davis to create an Indian vibe here. The imaginative result was worked up in collaboration with the Grosvenor Gallery, who helped arrange this commission.
The artistic pace changes again in The Síbín, a bar dedicated to the delights of all things whisky. This seemed the perfect opportunity to commission an artist, Alastair Mackie, to whom I was introduced by my business partner Alex Hammersley. We sat down and talked about what he could do – we already had oak panelling which refers to how the whisky’s aged – and we were keen to introduce the grain element. Mackie’s work, entitled 'Field, 2018', features an installation of corn dolls; tiny, individual sculptures created by weaving and plaiting grain stalks, an old rural craft used to appease the spirits of the crop at the end of the harvest.
Mackie says: “Growing up on a farm the harvest and, more broadly, our connections to and dependence on the natural world had early and profound influences on my interests as an artist.”
Head to the basement, which houses the gym and meeting rooms among other facilities, and you will find images of the Kray twins presented as a cross between sculpture and mixed media collage on perspex, either side of a police box executed in acrylic paint and ink on paper which has been ingeniously slashed and twisted by the artist. Close by are Bourke’s highly coloured forged bank notes on brushed aluminium, whilst an alcove in the basement is filled in with a bookshelf series by British digital print maker Phil Shaw featuring crime novels; the authors and titles on the brightly coloured dust jackets merge and mix, forming unexpected connections so the viewer becomes the detective solving a riddle as they unpick titles by Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L Sayers.
An abstract triptych in the Basement by South African based Andrzej Urbanski stops you in your tracks; the hard-edged irregular shaped canvasses follow a considered composition of overlapping forms and colours. Urbanski’s intense application is clearly influenced by growing up in Berlin’s “grey zone’ after the fall of the wall where he immersed himself in the street art.
Julio Alan Lopez
All around the hotel you will find the show stopping and the quirky, such as contemporary depictions of Londoners by Julio Alan Lepez. His characters marry quintessential British icons with his Latin American roots: a secretary-like figure leaves Number 10 Downing Street, a guardsman takes a selfie and a tired bobby lounges in a floral wing chair.
Unusually for a hotel, there is individual art in the bedrooms, we commissioned works from Andy Malone, Nicola Green and Alexander Korzer-Robinson, among others.
The intricate and surreal collages by Korzer-Robinson, a German-born artist, tell stories through the medium of antiquarian books, cut page by page to reveal their illustrations. Leading names from the past are included too, in surprising ways. One collection of works in the bedrooms, for instance, features a series of artist-designed boxed scarves by giants of 20th Century Modern British Art, including David Bomberg, Victor Pasmore and Graham Sutherland.
Green has also produced a series of prints for the hotel bedrooms. In these works, she has transformed the historic Millbank Prison floor plans and police hats into pared down graphic patterns. These are embellished by hand with 24k Gold and metal leaf.
Inspired by the artist Richard Hamilton, we designed our own collage for the bedrooms based on Dickens’s Old Curiosity Shop, the relief work printed on layered wood veneers, references London life, from the Kray twins driving a red Routemaster bus to the Gherkin protruding on the horizon. Even indie Rock band Florence + the Machine feature. We were trying to combine lots of different elements of the story in a playful way with a modern twist.